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Safe Soccer Play: A Chiropractor’s Advice

Safe Soccer Play: A Chiropractor’s Advice

by Casey Chan, DC, QME

There are 5 basic recommendations to avoid injury while playing soccer:

1. Play on and with Safe Fields and Equipment

2. Wear Proper Gear

3. Learn Proper Soccer Technique

4. Do Additional Strengthening and Stretching Exercise Training

5. If injured, receive treatment sooner than later.

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1. Play on and with Safe Fields and Equipment

Fields and Goals – Fields should be inspected prior to play, identifying the risk of falls and other injuries due to the presence of mud and sand which makes surfaces slippery leading to falls.  Divots are also dangerous, making it easier to get shoes stuck in the fields leading to ankle and knee sprains.  Sprinkler heads also pose a risk for tripping and cuts.

Goal posts should be padded, particularly for young kids who may run into the hard steel posts.

2.  Wear Proper Gear -Proper cleats and shin and ankle guards are necessary.  Knee pads and goalie gloves are also highly recommended for those who play the goalie position.

Proper Cleats – Cleats should be chosen depending on the type of field you are playing on.  Firmer surfaces, including indoor fields and hard grass fields will require shorter cleats.  Softer surfaces such as grass fields with softer soil will require longer cleats.  The goal is to have good traction while having a good balance between stability and mobility.  The sole of the shoe (minus the cleats) should lie low on the playing surface as you run. The higher the sole of the shoe lies above the surface of the playing surface, the greater the risk of ankle sprains.   This follows the same logic as why basketball and tennis players should not wear running shoes while playing.   You should not feel pressure points caused by the cleats.   Also consider that the longer the cleat you have, the less you will be able to pivot on each foot.  You will be more likely to sprain your knee.

Shin and ankle guards are important for protecting you against blows to the shin and ankle.  It is inevitable that a player will get hit in the shin and ankle by another player or by your own mis-kicks.

Due to the frequency of diving, knee pads are highly recommended for goal keepers.  Goalie gloves are important to avoid scrapes and cuts and finger sprains.

3. Learn Proper Soccer Technique

Heading the ball without proper technique may lead to neck sprain or strain and even concussion.  The neck should be stiffened at the time the head is in contact with the ball.  The ball should be struck with the top part of your forehead.  Receive proper training from a coach to avoid injury.

4. Do Additional Strengthening and Stretching Exercise Training

Strengthening the core and leg muscles are particularly important to avoid injury and improve performance.

These exercises include:

  • squats, lunges, knee extension and flexion weight exercises, calf raises abdominal crunches, back extension exercises, and a variety of pelvic stabilization exercises.

Stretching to maintain and increase flexibility is also important to avoid strain.   Stretches should be performed after a 5 minute jogging warm-up and after playing.

  • Stretches include: forward, backward and side-bending back stretches, abdominal stretches. quadricep and hamstring stretches, calf stretches, ankle flexion/extension/inversion/eversion/circumduction stretches, groin stretches, IT band stretches, gluteal stretches, hip flexor stretches, and neck stretches in flexion/extension/lateral flexion.

Plyometrics, agility exercises and ball-related drills are also important to improve power, speed and footwork that will help to avoid injury as well.

5. If injured, receive treatment sooner than later.

If a person is injured, waiting later to receive treatment may lead to prolonged or permanent damage.  Some of these injuries may also be very serious, such as concussion and fracture.  Waiting to treat a sprain or strain may lead to permanent shortening of tissues, scarring, hematomas, and loss of muscle function.

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